Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slice of Life - It's OK to Make a Mistake

  A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more about this week's 
Slice of Life.
Everything I've learned about life I have learned from the children I have taught. As a mentor, I now have the benefit of learning from the beginning teachers I support and their students. Today was no exception.

I was in a 6th grade classroom today that had the following journal prompt: What does this quote mean to you? The question was paired with the following photo and quote:
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
After time to think, reflect, and write, the teacher asked students to find out what the quote meant to their neighbor. I was sitting by a group of three students and listened in on their conversation: 
"You'll never accomplish anything."
"...doing the same, old, boring thing over and over again..."
"If you try something new you are going to make mistakes."
"It's ok to make mistakes."
Following the group/pair-share, students were randomly selected to share their thoughts. 
"Someone trying to be perfect all the time means that they are not trying to push themself to the limit."
"...never had a chance to improve."
"What(student) said, if you never made a mistake then you never learned." 
"It means that ... like the Wright brothers, they crashed into the barn and a baby's first steps..."
"What we are doing in the engineering project...that's just what it is...we keep doing it over and over...isn't it like what Edison said about 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration?"

The teacher of this classroom was relating the conversation to the work that the students are doing with an engineering task and a related written summary - in essence, she expected them to make mistakes and that it was ok. I was proud of this teacher and the opportunity that she took to not only build community but to also tie the time to their current work and life.

As I sat and listened to the their responses (out of the mouths of babes, right?), I couldn't help but think about a recent incident that I shared with my supervisor about my personal fear tied to a project I am working on failing. Her response to me was that "sometimes (it) has to fail in order to learn from the experience and to know what really needs to be done." I believed her when I heard her remark, but it didn't resonate until I sat in this classroom of 35 6th graders and listened in on their own thoughts about what it means to make a mistake. 
Some of my work "pushes me (and my district) to the limit" which means I'm/we're learning. It is like a baby's first steps where parts of the project need to fall multiple times in order to learn how to pick ones self up and continue to do so until the walk is stable.

I do think it is in my overachieving nature to seek perfection. It is what drives me. However, the lesson I learned from the teacher & students I support is that the mistake is where the learning takes place. I need to be ok with the work not being done perfectly the first time. In essence, I need to cut myself and those around me some slack.
I get it, now!
It is GREAT to make mistakes.